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Monday, May 2, 2022

Rye harvest
Friday afternoon a crew of workers harvested the large field of rye across from our house so it now has a crew cut!

"When We Ask Why"

Message summary: When we embrace God’s sovereignty we ask for more of His sustaining grace which leads to inner peace in the midst of difficult circumstances. Our heart’s question of “why?” turns into a surrendered seeking of the question “what?” What is it, Lord, that You are trying to teach me in my journey of pain? In what way may it be used for Your glory and for my spiritual growth!

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“You, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation” (Lamentations 5:19). “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?”  (Lamentations 5:20).

Across America many chicken farmers are dealing with a plague-like condition known as the Avian flu, which decimates poultry populations. Just over a month ago I was visiting with Mike, a friend who works in this industry, and he was warily watching as it spread eastward, although it had not quite reached Pennsylvania at that time as I recall.

Now it's impacting Lancaster County and many flocks need to be "depopulated", the rather Orwellian term used to describe the necessary process of mitigation. We have several large chicken houses in our immediate area impacted. One of the first affected were the huge chicken houses on Kreider Farms just one road west of us where they had to depopulate 1.4 million egg laying hens along with the chicken house at Brubaker Farms on the road east of us which has also been decimated. We worked for Noah Kreider as a chaplain years ago and are in a prayer group with Luke Brubaker, whose son owns and farms the pasture across the road from us seen in our lead photo.

Galen MartinSaturday morning we attended a memorial service honoring the memory of our dear friend, Etta Gibble, and caught up with Galen Martin, one of our longtime friends. The first Sunday after we moved to Lancaster County in 2001 we visited the neighborhood church and met Galen and his wife Nancy who invited us over for Sunday dinner. Since we were still in the unpacking stage their invitation was especially welcomed. They are genuine "salt of the earth" type people with a strong and earnest faith, weathered and tested through the years.

Galen is a lifelong farmer following generations of Martin family farmers and now his son Darrel continues that tradition on the same farm that's been in the family for nearly 150 years. Galen and Darrel operate a large chicken house but thankfully it has not been impacted. But he shared what a very challenging time it is for them at this time.  Galen built the chicken house in 1979 and the last round of Avian flu decimated his flock in 1984 when he was a young farmer and young father. Many of you reading this have likely eaten at least one egg produced on his farm.

During the devastation of the 1984 avian flu Galen warmly remembers that he received tremendous strength and encouragement each time he entered his home and saw his then infant son Darrel. Now he is seeking to be an encouragement to Darrel. Isn't that the way it should work in life!

We sang a song yesterday in church that begins in a very thoughtful way and I consider it's application especially to these farmers:

I am holding onto faith
'Cause I know You'll make a way
And I don't always understand
And I don't always get to see
But I will believe it, I will believe it.

"And I don't always understand, and I don't always get to see". These “why” questions are especially pertinent when the why is our very own experience during a time of trial. The most gifted minds of Bible students have grappled with it for centuries.

One of the hardest parts of pastoral and now chaplaincy work is dealing with the “why” questions in the lives of those we serve. Actually it’s one of the hardest parts of life isn’t it?  We’ve had several big ones and so have many of you. Brooksyne and I regularly seek to encourage those in the workplace who are in the midst of a heavy trial essentially asking, “Why is God allowing this to happen to me???”

One, very, very incomplete “seeing through a glass dimly” answer is this: I am convinced that we will have such a radically transformed perspective on the other side that issues which deeply trouble us on this side will be viewed entirely differently.  As the old song says, "We'll understand it better by and by".

The verses I have chosen as our daily text was written by one of the leading figures of the Bible.  Jeremiah was a man of great faith, commissioned by God from his very conception to be a “prophet to the nations” (see Jeremiah 1:5).  Here he merely speaks from his heart as he seems to waver between trusting and questioning. Amazingly, in the order of Scripture, he makes a great statement of faith, acknowledging, “You, O LORD, reign forever; Your throne endures from generation to generation” (Lamentations 5:19). What assurance that truth should bring.

But then in the very next verse he candidly describes his trouble with these pleaful questions, “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?” (Lamentations 5:20). This likely describes a sense of wavering, something we are all capable of doing. In certain circumstances I’ve found myself wavering, particularly in the very heat of a trial, but I, like Jeremiah, also acknowledge the sovereignty of God at the same time.

Philip Keller has said, “It takes some of us a lifetime to learn that Christ, our Good Shepherd, knows exactly what He is doing with us.” Well, I for one am still in the school of learning this! I’m trusting, but frankly I still explore the “why” questions, both pastorally and personally, from time to time. After I have wrestled with the questions surrounding the ordeal God brings me back around to the extremely important conclusion that He is sovereign. Layton Talbert says it so succinctly in his book “Not by Chance” that "all things are sustained, directed and controlled by God".

When we embrace God’s sovereignty we ask for more of His sustaining grace which leads to inner peace in the midst of difficult circumstances. Our heart’s question of “why?” turns into a surrendered seeking of the question “what?” What is it, Lord, that You are trying to teach me in my journey of pain? In what way may it be used for Your glory and for my spiritual growth!

“Jesus, Jesus, How I trust Him. 
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er. 
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus,
O, for grace to trust Him more!”

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, Your grace and tender mercies are present in the midst of perplexing situations that develop in our lives and the lives of those whom we love. Your sovereign power working within us takes the bad things that Satan hurls at us and turns them into testimonies of praise and thanksgiving when we seek to glorify You in the midst of suffering. Only a God like You can help us not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. As we share in Your sufferings, we also share in Your glory.  Be glorified in our lives; in the good, in the bad, and in the mysterious circumstances of our lives, in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

A prayer for farmers: Loving God, we pray for the many farmers and their families involved in the demanding field of agriculture. Their work is often dangerous and oppressed with uncertainty through weather, pests and disease. We pray for those whose livelihoods affected by disease, falling prices, and by the shortcomings of disaster management. May they know that the community they attempt to serve stands alongside them in their need. We ask You to shield their hearts and minds from bitterness and anger and to grow their trust in Your faithful hand of protection and provision, in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Faithful Now"  Video  Vertical Worship  We dedicate this song to our farming friends going through this time of trial, specifically Galen and Darrel. Fill their hearts with assurance that:

You make mountains move, You make giants fall
You use songs of praise to shake prison walls
And I will speak to my fear, I will preach to my doubt
That You were faithful then and You'll be faithful now
Oh, You were faithful then and You'll be faithful now.

"Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus"  Video  Shane and Shane  Brooksyne's note: I've loved this song since I was a small child, but it took on new meaning nearly 13 years ago after I sang it to 88 year old Harper Hull, a very godly man and community leader in his earlier years, as he lay on his death bed at Willow Valley Health Care facility. He appeared to be unconscious and hadn't spoken a word to his family for several days as I recall. I still felt led to sing the last verse of "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus". I sat on his bedside and sang softly, "And I know that He is with me, wilt be with me to the end" and he responded in a hoarse but strong whisper, "Amen" though his eyes never opened. Stephen and I were surprised as was his family when we told them later. He died a few hours after our visit. God was truly with him "to the end".

I'm so glad I learned to trust Him,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend
And I know that He is with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

"Goodness of God"  Video  Triumphant Quartet  Brooksyne's note: Our congregation sang this beautiful song yesterday as tears of thanksgiving rolled down my cheeks. Even as I was singing, my mind was reviewing some periods in my life when I questioned God's goodness in disappointing situations, but then all I could see was God's goodness even as I was reminded of the pain I experienced at the time. I enjoy the Triumphant Quartet's rendition and heard the lead singer once say on "Gospel Greats" that technicians had to stop the recording several times as he was overcome with emotion each time he sang it until they finally got a good recording.

And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

"The Reason"  Video  Travis Cottrell

"As a sixth Lancaster County farm detects avian flu, officials step up prevention efforts"

Galen with oldest son and new baler
Galen holding his son when he was a young farmer.

Darrel in combine
About 15 years ago I rode with Darrel in the combine

Combine at wheat harvest
His dedicated girlfriend Kelly joining him on the combine!
Darrel Martin with Brooksyne
We attended Darrel and Kelly's wedding in 2008. Following the ceremony the bridal couple greeted each attendee and dismissed us from the wedding ceremony row by row.  Brooksyne, unable to leave her chair due to breaking her ankle, expected to just wave at Darrel and Kelly, but they kindly sought her out and extended warm hugs.

Lancaster County corn harvest 10/12/16
Three generations of Martin family farmers!
Galen, his son Darrel and grandson Asher, who enjoys being with his dad on the combine. Darrel was in high school when we moved to this area in 2001 and married Kelly, his high school sweetheart, in 2008.

Today we especially considered how this avian flu is impacting local farmers we know. However in time it will eventually affect all of us in higher prices and shortages. We should regularly pray for farmers and those who produce our food even if we don't know anyone who does, which is the case for so many, especially those in urban areas, many who appear to be clueless as to where food comes from. Many have the same attitude I can imagine a certain outspoken inner city congresswoman expressing, "Why should I worry about the chickens, when I can just buy it in the store".

Finally today:

ABF gathering
Saturday evening we gathered in Lititz with friends from our Adult Bible Fellowship class for a meal and time of fellowship. After several very cold and windy days, it was a beautiful day to join with friends and enjoy a variety of potluck delights. I visited with Bob Rohrer, a dairy farmer, and was blessed by the earnest care farmers have for other farmers. Even though his farm is not affected he is a friend to many other farmers such as Luke Brubaker.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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